From Publisher’s Weekly:
The Readmagine publishing conference ran from June 7-9 in Madrid, featuring an A-list of publishing pros.
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The boom in audiobook sales, which continues to transform the landscape across Europe, was a point of conversation. Enrico Turrin, deputy director of the Federation of European Publishers, told the audience that when all the data from FEP’s members is in, audiobooks are likely to account for as much as 4-5% of sales. This shift follows that in the U.S., where Michele Cobb, executive director of the Audiobook Publishers Association, noted that the U.S. has seen 11 years of double-digit growth. “Now, 53% of the U.S. population has listened to an audiobook,” Cobb said.
Cobb noted that there was a potential shift in prevailing business models, moving from a credits-based system to the all-you-can-consume model. “There is growth in both areas,” she said. Discovery too is changing as new consumers are increasingly finding books on TikTok – “you might call it AudioTok,” Cobb said. People are building online communities around listening to audiobooks, but like with print, “the biggest challenge is marketing” and many publishers are “using influencers to do their marketing.”
Kurt Thielen, CEO at audiobook publisher Zebralution, said that he was seeing the market shift in Germany, where the company is based. “We’re seeing people do an audiobook with everything, from books to magazines to personal brand content. It’s a fundamental change in the marketing approach.” Thielen said that short, 30-minute episodic serialization is becoming more prevalent.
Growth for audiobooks has been strong across most demographics, but the born-digital Gen Z – those 18-28 years old—are showing a preference for audiobooks over digital reading, said Shauna Moran, trends manager for Global Web Index, an U.K. based consultancy. “68% of European Gen Zers say they prefer audio books to e-books,” and “28% regularly listen to podcasts.” Moran noted that the content Gen Z preferred was “engaging and goal oriented” – meaning self-help and publishers of DIY content might have an opportunity with short form audio. As far as discovery goes, there was no surprise when she referenced the power of TikTok to persuade readers. “People want to be told what to [read],” she said.
Matt Locke, director of Storythings, a media consultancy from the U.K., concurred. He went on to say that future innovation in publishing would require some tangential thinking, insofar as the past patterns of consumption are evolving into a situation where people want “everything, everywhere all at once,” which has helped fuel the shift from “visual to listening.”
When it comes to innovation from inside the established publishing industry, HarperCollins’s Restivo-Alessi, was part of a panel that tried to peer into the future. The panelists made several observations. They saw the possibility of famous authors, following in the footsteps of Swiss bestseller Joel Dicker and fantasy novelist Brandon Sanderson, going the self-publishing route; and authors merging genres, such as romance and fantasy becoming “romantacy,” which was already a big trend as of Frankfurt 2022.
Unsurprisingly, AI was a main point of discussion, with the panel referencing a variety of ways the industry has already been impacted, from the launch of Reedz, an AI-powered translation company based in Sweden; Bookwire’s incorporation of ChatGPT into its platform; and the launch of Sudowrite, AI-powered writing software. Restivo-Alessi quoted HC CEO Brian Murray’s speech at the London Book Fair earlier this year, noting that “AI is both an opportunity and a risk.” It offers publishers a chance to streamline some editorial and marketing tasks, such as the production of metadata and production of social media posts, but also threatens the integrity of “human-centric storytelling.”
Link to the rest at Publisher’s Weekly
As PG has said before, he sees AI voices replacing humans very quickly, but takes no pleasure in the disruption of the lives and businesses of human voice actors.
That said, AI for ebooks will provide a great many benefits to publishers and self-publishers. AI will do the job much faster, enabling indie authors to publish ebooks, hard copy and audiobooks at the same time or stage the entry of each of those versions of the book if that appears to be a better way of maximizing revenue and profits.
PG expects to see creators of AI voices wanting to monetize their investments in building and perfecting text to speech, but he predicts that there will be a whole lot of competitors in text to speech showing up in a hurry and, at least some systems designers, perhaps academics, who will make an text to speech AI widely available at no charge or much lower charges than commercial versions of that service.
One interesting issue PG predicts will surface relatively quickly with AI narrators vs. human narrators will be a squeezing out of humans in this process for both cost and time-to-market benefits.